December 28, 2018

I Heart Midwest Weather!

Last night around 10pm, it was 50°F.  Think about that for a moment.  Northern Illinois, two days after Christmas, and it was so warm I had to take off my fleece pullover.  It was practically balmy.


And I'm not just saying that to post a picture of cute girls in swimsuits, heavens no.  I would never in a million years do that.  Now, those of you who have visited The Pond in the past undoubtedly know where this is heading.  Those of you who haven't visited The Pond in the past probably have a good idea too.

Under normal circumstances, the light dusting of snow we had gotten whilst I was at work (for 11.3 hours!) would have been quite pleasant.  It looked a lot like what you imagine a light dusting of snow would look like... but it concealed a danger worse than any faced by man or duck.

Long-time anime fans understand the reference.  Particularly fortunate short-time anime fans will too.  Everybody else will see a cute girl... and that's a-okay!  Anyway.  Ice.  There was a thin layer of ice on everything.  Including the parking lot.  And the Duckmobile.  Now, one of the reasons I haven't written anything since Christmas is that I'm dealing with a screwed up leg again.  During Christmas dinner it suddenly felt like something tore in my right (not the left!) leg maybe... and it still hurts now.  Makes getting out of bed a real challenge... my right leg is the one that does a lot of the heavy lifting, and now it doesn't want to without screaming.  I tell ya, being old sucks.  Right, back to ice.  I carefully made my way to my car, cane in hand, tentatively and gingerly.  I only came close to losing it once... while I was scraping ice off the windshield.

Oh, and now it's only lower 20s.  I love weather in the midwest.
 


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December 25, 2018

Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas from all of me here at The Pond!  I hope Santa brought you everything you wanted and nothing you needed...

Edit: Bring in the dancing Kumikos!

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December 23, 2018

Bad Ideas In Mine Clearing #523

Bren carrier?  Check.
Naval mine on a rope?  Check.
Roundel confirming Polish troops?  Check.

Either this thing is already defused, or it's a primitive attempt at spaceflight.

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December 22, 2018

Could I Fail Any Harder?

You know all that stuff I mentioned yesterday?  Pfft.  I woke up feeling like I had a hangover, which I didn't, probably because I only slept for four hours.  I figured I'd get everything done at work, then come home early, nap, then voila, back on schedule!


In fact, I felt so miserable that I only just managed to be a lump of suet all day.  I did take a nap... another four hours... and at least my headache is gone now, but it's 10pm-ish and the whole day is shot to hell.  I choked harder than Darth Vader choked Admiral Ozzel.

I'm now well and truly screwed as far as overtime goes next week.  Go me!

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December 21, 2018

Plans Derailed. Schemes Foiled.

Perhaps some of you may have heard that Christmas is this coming week?  I know, I know, it surprised me too, don't worry.  Still, I figured it out soon enough.

An accurate representation of the parking lot at work
Unfortunately, my bosses did not.  Despite all the Christmas events we had this past week, despite the Big Boss playing Christmas music over the phone intercoms at random times, despite a dozen decorated Christmas trees populating the office (I very much liked the Santa Vader tree... Darth Vader helmet on top with Santa cap, black "cloak"... actually a black bag of toys... over it's "shoulders", illuminated light saber flashing red and green alternately, and TIE fighter ornaments), despite all these clues and hints, they never figured out that Christmas was next week.  When they did, they had to scramble to give the staff a little something extra to go under the tree.  So they gave us all the normal 10 hours of overtime as a gift.
An accurate representation of the supervisors at work.
Now yes, they did this to us at Thanksgiving too.  But this is Christmas, and what have you done?  Another year over, a new... oh fer the luvva, sorry, didn't mean to break into song.  THIS IS CHRISTMAS.  Bad enough that we're open on Christmas Eve, and yes I know retailers will be open but I got out of retail for reasons like that.  And being fired.  But also for reasons like that.  That's bad enough.  Now they expect us to put in overtime on Christmas Eve, too, because otherwise you're doing 10 hours in three days.  That's not gonna fly.
An accurate representation of something not flying.
So my options are limited... indeed, my options are 1) Kill Myself With Overtime, or 2) Work On Saturday.  Neither option is particularly palatable.  But I just got home from an 11 hour day, and I really don't want to do that next friday, particularly since I get a five-day weekend.  So I'm probably going to work on Saturday, which kinda derails my plans for the "writeup warmup" I want to do.  I'll still give it a shot, but instead of going into it with a nap under my belt I'll be going in grumpy after work.  Which, come to think of it, might just be the perfect way to approach it.  Stay tuned folks, it's gonna get crabby up in here.
An accurate representation of a crab.

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December 18, 2018

Plans And Schemes

Okay.  Here's the plan, here's my scheme.  You ready for this?


Anime writeups are coming back.  January 12th, 2019.  That's a Saturday.  That night, I will begin (and hopefully finish) the writeup for Episode 01 of Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka

It's been over three years since my writeup for Gakkou Gurashi died a miserable death.  I do believe I'm a little out of practice, so I intend to do a little sumtin' sumtin' this weekend... y'know, get the juices flowin', stretch out the ol' arm, see if the old man has still got it in him.  Maybe it might even be good.  Who knows?  

Look forward to it, won't you?

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December 14, 2018

"Fleet" Of Fog

No, not that sort of "Fleet of Fog".  I mean the type you get when clouds decide they're tired of the sky and go slumming here on the ground.  But why "Fleet"?  Because I'm doing stupid wordplay again.  Let me explain.

I left work tonight around 930pm.  Not the last to leave, but not a whole buncha cars in the lot, y'know what I mean?  I walked out the security door into the hallway that leads to the Door To The World when I stopped dead in my tracks.  All I could see beyond the Door To The World was... white.  Or gray.  Grayish-white.  I knew it wasn't snow, it's been around 40 all day.  Oh crap... that means its gotta be fog.  Once I stepped into The World, I actually swore rather viciously.  THICK fog.  I could see the Duckmobile, about halfway down the lot, but not all that great,  Well, nothing I can do about it, and the longer I stood there the longer it'd be until I got home.  Then I could start the weekend off right with some tea... maybe a little Darjeeling?

I am so very sorry...
In auto racing, there's a term used to describe a track surface when it's just little bit wet, not bad enough to put on Inters, but damp enough that your slicks are going to be a tiny bit squirrely.  That condition is called "greasy."  I understood the concept, but I never expected to experience it with my shoes.  See, over this past summer The Powers That Be resurfaced our parking lot.  It was pretty impressive... it wasn't Vantablack-levels of black, but it was awfully black.  So much so that there was a noticeable difference in temperature when you walked onto it.  It was also very very rain resistant.  Even a small amount of rain would cause streams and ponds to appear... seems nobody gave much thought to drainage.  

It was onto this I walked as I headed to my car.  As I got about 20 yards away, I noticed the windows were more opaque than normal.  Frost.  Swell.  And then it felt like I had stepped onto an ice rink.  Like slick tires on a greasy track, I suddenly felt like I was right on the edge of adhesion and just about to understeer into a wall.  Metaphorically.  Thankfully my cane helped, but the rest of the walk was done with those little mincing penguin steps you instinctively use on ice.  Scraping the frost off the windshield wasn't fun... the fog must have settled around my car, because the lot was pretty darn slippery right there.  Got in, turned on the defroster full blast so as to allow some visibility, and began to drive home...

...and realized I had a problem.  I don't think I could see more than a a few car-lengths in front of me.  I was forced to navigate via painted lines.  Thankfully, I took the non-rural route home, so there were some street lights, and that helped a little bit.  It also helped that I've lived in this part of town for 18 years or so and knew the road.  

Not that that helped me when I dipped into a small valley.  Battleships are more transparent than the fog was at that moment.  I've experienced worse fog in my life, like the time the woman I was dating fell ill and asked me to drive to her apartment in a Chicago suburb and make sure she didn't get REALLY ill.  The Duckmobile was new then, and such a trip was nothing... 45 minutes to an hour tops.  Except I-90 was fogged... and it was cold... and every leading edge of my car was iced over in just a couple of miles.  By the time I reached the Belvidere toll booth, I knew I had two choices: turn back and live, or go forward and die.  I turned back.  Unfortunately, she did get very ill, wound up in the hospital for nearly two weeks... and was pissed that I didn't make it.  The relationship ended a month or two later with her resenting that I didn't put in a bigger effort to get to her.  Visibility was friggin' zero, the ice on the car was getting thicker by the moment, and I still had 50 miles to go.  Hell, when I got home and turned off the car's radio, the antenna automatically retracted.  Or it tried to.  The ice on the front of it was so thick it prevented it from going into its little hole... and the motor broke.  The antenna has been up ever since.

Anyway.  I did eventually get to Pond Central tonight, but I was more than a little stressed.  Hopefully THAT won't happen again for a while... not fun stuff.  Unfun. The drive home was very much NOT fleet of fog.

I said it was stupid wordplay.

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December 11, 2018

Music? Gaming? Various? Other?

I'm not entirely sure where to put this one, but I've got to linkify it or I'll go even more insane than usual.


K/DA - Pop/Stars

I don't know if any of the Pond Scum plays League of Legends.  I don't, and I've never even been tempted to, and I'm not now.  But I'll be damned if I don't think this song by four of the Heroes from the game (well, no, not really, but you know what I mean) isn't stupidly catchy.  The video isn't anything to sneer at either... it wasn't all that long ago that animation would have been the only way to get something that looks like it.  Nowadays you could pull it off in the real world with a lot of Premiere... heck, maybe it was rotoscoped, I dunno, they don't tell me these things.

Anyway, now you've got the song in your head too.  Good luck with that.

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December 08, 2018

Pay. Bed. Continued.

It was a better day, but to explain exactly why it was better, you need to know why yesterday sucked the chrome off a trailer hitch.  So here we go.


The life-cycle of a claim is convoluted even before it reaches my computer screen.  It's like this: you go to the doctor to have that... thing... on your shin looked at ("Is it supposed to have a face, doc?" ICD-10 S89.80XA).  After he finishes flame-sterilizing his examination room (ICD-10 T31.99), his office manager bills your insurance company (ICD-10 G93.9x)... which just happens to be the company I process claims for.  Whatta coinkidink!

Assuming the claim is sent electronically, the system attempts to process it automatically.  If that attempt fails (and there's a good chance it will), it gets shuffled into the Big Bucket o' Claims that gets dumped into the Intartubez where it sits until I or one of my cow-orkers has it land in our laps (ICD-10 S38.01XA).  We attempt to process it.. and remember, these are the ones that couldn't be done by the Master Control Program... and either we can or we can't.  If we can't, we have to detail what the problem is and send it to specialists at the insurance company's TM Department.  There, they fix what's wrong and send it back.  At which point we should be able to complete the claim and get the doctor paid.

That's the way it's supposed to work.  Now let me tell you what's actually been happening.

Somewhere after the Big Bucket o' Claims but before it got to us, there was a glitch.  For whatever reason, about two-thirds of all claims were sent to the TM Department whether they needed to be or not.  Now, the TM Department is not what you would call tolerant of mistakes... you do NOT want to send a contract problem to enrollment, for example... so when they came in on Monday morning they reacted as one might expect.  All of these claims got a message put in the notes field stating, in effect, that they were sent in error and need to be processed according to the usual rules, then they were dropped back into the Bucket.

And that's when the fun began.  See, we tried to process the claims according to rules, but just like any claims there were occasional problems... a new physician has joined a clinic and hasn't been "associated" with it in our system, can you fix that please?... which we duly sent back to the TM Department.

And they promptly sent them back with the same message.  And by promptly, I mean next day.  Better yet, they didn't actually do anything to them.  I've taken to sending them back with a painfully detailed explanation of the problem in the memo field: "This doctor, David Smith, needs to be added to the rolls of James Clinic so this claim can be paid" instead of "firing edit 999, please advise" which has worked perfectly fine for the past three-plus years.  And at least half the time, THOSE claims came back with the same message.

So all of that is bad enough.  But here's where it gets REALLY REALLY FUN!  Long Term Care claims (LTC) are a huge part of our daily drops... if we get 4000 claims in a day, 2500 of them will be LTC.  And most of those are for Personal Assistance Services... back when I first started at this job, PAS claims were the greatest thing ever!  When I was really rolling, I could easily do 45 or 50 of them in an hour.  But then about a year or so ago, a new policy was instituted by the client that required any PAS claim with a certain flag set had to be held overnight so the automagic system could... I dunno, check a contract or something.  Since the claims aren't actually finished, we don't get paid for them until they ARE done.  Okay, whatever... at least we get them completed the next morning.  No big deal.

How does this flag get set you may be asking?  Well, if we have to actually enter the provider into our system, that's one big way... the electronic form we work from is fine, but for whatever reason OUR ops program didn't get the info carried over.  If there's multiple providers under the same name, for example, the system won't carry it over.  This happens a lot with some of the bigger LTC companies that might have offices in four or five cities.  They should all fall under the banner of "Bob's Bunny Care", and in fact do, but the system has "Bob's Bunny Care - Marengo", "Bob's Bunny Care - Union", "Bob's Bunny Care - Elwood", etc etc etc

Another way that flag will be set is if the claim comes to us via the TM Department.  Yeah, you see where this is going.  On Thursday, I pulled over 120 LTC claims in four hours or so, and almost all of them I had to hold overnight.  Well, so what?  At least I'll get them Friday morning, right?  Even though I knew those claims were going to be held, absolutely knew it... they still took time to deal with.  In fact, it takes very nearly as much time to get one of these claims to the point where you can hold it as it does to actually COMPLETE the claim.  And then the next day, even though the claim is almost done, you still have to spend time finishing it up... and the total time between the two days is LONGER than if you could have just done it all in one go.

So those 120 claims that should have been done on Thursday but weren't cost me time that could have been better spent on NEW claims on Friday.  Annoying enough, but when I mentioned this fact to one of the supervisors and explained that I had basically made half minimum wage on Thursday because of it, she got very very quiet.

Jump to Friday night.  Wonderduck is very literally the only person working the State I was pulling claims from... and they were LTC.  But there was a difference... all of the broken claims had been removed and sent back to the TM Department to get them fixed for easy processing.  I still had about 60 or 70 claims that wound up being held over for Monday, but the "good" claims were all like the Old Days.  So.  Better.  But why couldn't they have done that on Thursday?  I don't know, and I probably won't ever know. 

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December 06, 2018

Sometimes It Just Doesn't Pay To Get Out Of Bed

You hear people say that a lot, in a metaphorical way.  I mean it literally.


I was at work for 11 hours today.  By my reckoning, I grossed $42 and some change.

That's right.  Not only did I not make minimum wage, I didn't even make 1996's minimum wage.  
If I had called in sick today, I would have more than doubled my day's income. That ain't right.


I'd try and explain why all this happened, but I'm not sure I could do justice to the exquisite confluence of screwups, stupidity, and something else that starts with "s" that brought me to that point.  Let's just say that I am going to have words with my supervisor tomorrow, and it will probably be an unpleasant conversation.  That my per-claim rate is low at the moment is my fault, and thankfully that mostly goes away in a week.  But the cavalcade of cockups was not my fault, and it should have been prevented.  Prevented, hell... it never should have been allowed to get that far in the first place.

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December 03, 2018

Just Think What I'd Feel Like WITHOUT The Happy Pills!

Hi, everybody.  Wonderduck here, and I've gotta tell you, I'm not in the mood for fun and games.  Sometime Sunday I began to feel somewhat less than chipper, and by the time I finally went to bed I realized I was fully in the grasp of what Winston Churchill called "the black dog."  I slipped further and further during work today, to the point of very nearly screaming at the entire room to shut up, stop talking, nobody cares about what you want to say and for the love of all that's holy STOP SINGING!!!!!


But I didn't.  What's the point?  The talking will continue no matter what I say or do, no matter how much I complain.  So I slowly go deaf, turning my mp3 player up louder and louder.  At one point today, I very nearly began sobbing, simply because my claims had gone sour.  Frustration, and knowing that it's never-ending.
I know, shut up and blog.  Workin' on it.

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December 02, 2018

Hey Wonderduck, What're You Listening To?

Everybody has their musical obsessions of the moment, right?  The stuff that you've simply got to hear when you're listening to music, on heavy rotation on your mp3 player, constantly streaming online, whatever, you've got 'em, your friends and co-workers have 'em, and I have 'em.

The difference is, I've got a blog.

Benny Goodman - Sing Sing Sing (Swingwhale Enhiezima Remix)
Because I simply will not let electroswing go down without a fight.  And yes, I do think the original is better, but I like the addition of the modern bass elements.  Plus, hell, it's fun stuff and I'm no expert on music theory or anything like that.

Kid Kasino & Dutty Moonshine - Everybody
Sometimes you stumble across clever music in the strangest of places.  One place that has a surprisingly high ratio of "entertaining tunes" to "content" is gameplay videos.  I was watching a guy named Arlios and his World of Warships highlight vids, when a couple of minutes into it I realized I was diggin' the tune more than the gameplay.  That's happened before, but it's always a fun time when it occurs.  The videos are good, too!

Zooly - Siri Says
Lets get this out of the way right now: I'm not sure if I like the song, or I like the AMV and the song just tags along.  What I didn't realize is that the AMV is by Haunter103, the creator of The Greatest AMV Ever.  While it's not as good as that one... how could it be, when it's up against The Greatest AMV Ever?... it's still awfully darn good.  Song's catchy too.

Adhesive Wombat - Anthem
Speaking of music in gameplay videos... you know the game SuperHot?  FPS, time only moves when you move, opponents are all red?  This song was used in SuperHot's greenlight trailer.  Is it original?  No.  Is it repetitive?  Yes.  Do I care?  No.  Do I enjoy listening to it?  Yes.

Gevolt - Khokhotshet
Klezmer is a type of music originally played by Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews, but got mixed with American jazz in the 1920s.  That's the version most people are familiar with; the original style is apparently having a quiet resurgence.  Heavy Metal is a type of music that stems from the late '60s that includes the use of driving guitars, a heavy bass and drum back beat, and often dramatic (or overdramatic) singing.  Klezmer Metal is an unholy mutant that is simply wrong in so many ways.  Which is what makes it so stinkin' good.  Seriously, if that isn't some of the best metal music you've heard recently, you've got to tell me what you're listening to that's better.

Korpiklaani - Ievan Polkka
Hatsune Miku is over in the corner crying, because in Finland even the polkas are metal. And yes, that viking is wielding a feather duster. And this might be the best use of Valve's software ever.

Right, that's all.  Everybody back on your heads.

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November 30, 2018

So There I Was...

Man, you hear somebody say "So there I was..." and you know a good story is inbound.  So there I was, early Wednesday morning, all ready to go back to work.  And by ready, I actually mean "resigned to my fate", but what do you expect after four days away?  Yes, four, I did have to go in for five hours on Black Friday.  Still, four days plus some, means yeah, I really didn't want to go back to work.  But like any good adult, I gathered myself together and began to make my way to the Duckmobile.  As I did, I looked upon the fresh fields of snow covering the parking lot and an overwhelming urge took hold of me!  An urge... to snow angel the *hell* out of the lot!
Not quite the "snow angel" I meant.
Ignoring the stares of the neighbor or two nearby, I promptly began angeling like a little kid.  After a minute or two I realized something interesting... I was actually comfortable!  Like lying on a really soft bed, lying on the snow in Pond Central's parking lot was... well, it was a little cold, but yeah, I was comfy!  Reveling in this strange and wonderous feeling, I just continued to lie there.  I could almost doze off, I was so comfy... or hypothermia was setting in, one of the two.  Anyway, it was really nice until the snowplow came.
How could I have anticipated that showing up?  There aren't any rails in the parking lot!
I immediately found myself thrown high into the air, landing in a snowdrift and rapidly covered with more snow from the plow.  Some time later, I managed to half-dig, half-drag myself to the surface where I discovered I'd been surrounded by a bunch of Greenpeace-like people, all yelling about protecting the rare and endangered Snow Manatee.  A loud cheer was raised when they spied me struggling to gain my feet, and then they began to pelt me with more snow.
When I asked them to stop doing that, they replied that the rare and endangered Snow Manatee needed to be kept covered with snow, lest they dry up and shrivel away.  I pointed out to them that I'm not a Snow Manatee, I'm just a guy trying to get to work, they laughed and pointed out that the rare and endangered Snow Manatee was known to have a great sense of humor.  "What a kidder, Snow Manatees don't have jobs!"
And that's why I was late to work.

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November 26, 2018

Snowmageddon Came Early This Year

On Thanksgiving, I noticed that the forecast for Saturday night called for a little bit of snow, maybe as much as three inches.  By Friday, the snow had moved to Sunday afternoon/evening until Monday morning, and maybe six inches in the worst case.  "Cool," I said. "I've got Monday and Tuesday off anyway!"
What we expected.  We were fools.
By late Friday night/Saturday morning, winter weather advisories had changed to winter storm warnings, and then to blizzard warnings.  Four to eight inches were likely in Duckford, but heavier to the south.  The very worst of it was going to be in a narrow band that'd surely miss us.  Indeed, the storm coming was so narrow that people 20 miles north of the city were not expecting any snow at all, or a dusting.  They were right, that's all they got.  That's all they got. 
What actually happened.  All of these idols are now dead, buried by snowfall.
By 4pm Sunday afternoon, there was already a couple of inches on the Duckmobile, but it looked like it was only flurrying anymore.  Piece of cake!  Then the sun went down and I was unable to see what happened next... Duckford experienced snowfall rates of up to two inches/hour for a while overnight, and it never actually stopped snowing until about 6am Monday.  The official snowfall amount at Duckford International Airport was 11.7"... and that measurement was taken only a couple of miles to the west of Pond Central.  I assume the narrow bands sorta moved a bit to the north.  Oopsie!

I am fortunate.  One of my neighbors decided to take it upon himself to shovel the sidewalks clean and start removing snow from cars.  He had my car pretty much cleared off before I  even woke up today.  Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about the parking lot, which hadn't been visited by the Snowplow Fairy yet, and wouldn't be until about 2pm. 

All this caught Duckford by surprise.  It was much heavier than expected by anyone.  Anyone, that is, except for the National Weather Service, at least two different TV stations in town, and the newspaper.  I'm still not exactly sure the tertiary... quadiary?... road Pond Central is on has been plowed yet... or even if it will be at all.  But then, what do you expect when this was the heaviest snowfall ever recorded for the month of November in Duckford?  And not just by a little bit: the record was just over six inches on a day in 1996.  We nearly doubled that.

All the schools in the area were closed today.  Many businesses never opened... it looked like almost everybody who lives in Pond Central's building did not go to work today... and I have no idea if the mail was delivered or not.  And now it's snot-freezingly cold and windy outside. 

And I'm still on vacation.  Hee hee hee.

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November 24, 2018

F1 Quals: Abu Dhabi 2018

Even though it rained a few days ago, it's pretty safe to say that the weather in Abu Dhabi was hot and dry... though humid and cooling off because of a fairly strong breeze.  Still, pretty decent for today's session.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2018 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi:

Pos Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.828 1:35.693 1:34.794
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:36.789 1:36.392 1:34.956
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:36.775 1:36.345 1:35.125
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:37.010 1:36.735 1:35.365
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:37.117 1:36.964 1:35.401
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:37.195 1:36.144 1:35.589
7 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:37.575 1:36.732 1:36.192
8 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:37.124 1:36.580 1:36.237
9 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:36.936 1:36.814 1:36.540
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:37.569 1:36.630 1:36.542
11 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:37.757 1:36.982
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:37.619 1:37.132
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:37.934 1:37.309
14 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:37.255 1:37.541
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:37.890 1:37.743
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso
1:37.994

17 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso
1:38.166

18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 1:38.577

19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:38.635

20 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:38.682


This is the first time in F1 history that a team has had five consecutive front-row lockouts at a track.  Yeah, Mercedes likes Yas Marina.  This is also Hamilton's 11th pole of the season.  11 out of 21 races... we're really watching one of the all-time greats, you know that?  Sure, the car helps, but Lewis Hamilton seriously has a chance to be the best in F1 history.  Now we just need to see if his engine holds up.  Apparently his power unit was riding the ragged edge of annihilation for much of the race in Brazil, and it definitely suffered some damage.  How much?  The team isn't sure themselves.  Either it'll hold together, or it will go kablammo and be Hamilton's first engine failure all year.

It seems very unlikely, but Haas still has a chance to finish fourth in the Constructor's Championship.  They just need to score 24 points more than Renault.  Remember, the points system is 25/18/15/12/10/8/6/4/2/1.  It's hard to imagine a realistic scenario where Haas scores 24 points, period, let alone outscore Renault by that much.  But I guess it's not impossible.

Race in the morning.  See you sometime afterwards!

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November 23, 2018

F1 on TV: Abu Dhabi 2018

And so we come to the end.  The last race of the season is upon us, and with it the ending of a legendary career.  But first, here's the track map of the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi:


No real changes to the layout, but one big change to the curbs.  In the past, Turn 20 has been infamous for the track limits being ignored.  It was common... normal... to see cars running so wide that they were practically only on the curbs, not on the asphalt.  This year, a new "sausage" curb has been installed, and mark my words, someone is going to badly damage their car on it either in quals or during the race.  It's high enough that a car will grind away most of its floor if it spends much time on it.  Indeed, DH Verstappen did exactly that in Practice 2 today, though the extend of the damage is unknown to me.

Sadly, this is the final F1 race weekend for Fernando Alonso, who is moving on to do... other racing things that aren't F1.  It's not because of the way McLaren has blown chunks the past few years and thus deprived him of any chance at all of another championship... or even of one more win... just ask him!  However, that can't be 100% true.  He's still a top-level driver, after all... anybody doubt that if he was in a Ferrari or Mercedes he'd be a championship contender?  I've gotta admit, he's rehabilitated himself in my eyes.  This is the man that for years was nicknamed HWMNBN for his $100 million backstab of McLaren a decade ago.  And yet, he's escaped that moniker.

Also, just officially announced on Thursday, Williams is bringing Robert Kubica back as a driver in 2019.  It's a great story for Formula 1.  Great young star terribly injured in a crash, works his way back to the top level of racing despite his right arm having had nearly 14000 surgeries (I exaggerate).  I'm on record stating that I think he's an idiot, and he was over four seconds slower than the fastest car today in Practice 1... allegedly they were doing setup work... and from watching the in-car cameras his right hand appears to be useless.  He's doing all the shifting, both up and down, and all the adjustments on the steering wheel, with his left hand.  His right hand is just keeping the wheel straight while he does all that.

Anyway, yeah, I mean, I hope it works out for Williams and Kubica, I really do... even if I don't think he deserves to be back in the seat, it's still a fantastic human interest story.  Who knows, perhaps he'll surprise us all.

Quals in the morning... see ya then!

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November 20, 2018

Of Turkey And Overtime

Remember that six-day weekend I mentioned a while ago?  Well, throw a half-day of work in there on Friday.  See, the Powers That Be, in all their wisdom and glory, decided that we needed to work eight hours of OT this week.  "Well hey," I hear you say, and that's impressive because I'm listening to some electroswing at very high volumes at the moment, "that's less than the usual 10, that's great!"  Sure, if we were doing it in the normal five days.  This week we're technically only open three: "...but you're welcome to work on Thursday or Friday if you'd like."


However, instead of doing 32 hours in three days and killing myself in the process, I've decided that I'm going to work a half-day on Friday and curse my employers the whole time.  Who needs holidays?  There's claims to push!  I'm not the only one somewhat discomfited by this, it needs be said.
Who knew PSB could do "angry"?  Anyway, in the grand scheme of things, this is nothing.  A hurricane hasn't blown my house away, a forest fire hasn't burned down a quarter of my city, this is just griping about having a job.  Yes, I know how whiny that all sounds.  Tough.  I want my holiday time, dagnabbit.  

Big plans, anybody?

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November 18, 2018

F1 Backdate: Mexico 2018

Hello, and welcome to the first ever F1 Backdate!  When I'm running stupidly late on coverage of a F1 race, this is going to be the result:  a look back at the most important aspects of the race with benefit of a week's worth of analysis.  Let's get back(date) to it!


*WHAT HAPPENED:  DH Verstappen and False Esteban! had a coming-together on Lap 44.  FE! was in 16th and a lap down on the Dutchman, who was legitimately leading the race and appeared to be cruising to a victory.  However, the Force India driver had only recently emerged from the pits with a brand-new set of tires, while Verstappen was on fairly used rubber.  Thus, False Esteban! was substantially quicker than the Red Bull as they came down the pit straight.  He managed to get alongside the outside of Red Bull, and held that position through Turn 1.  This put him on the inside for Turn 2, and stayed very close to the curb as the two entered the turn.  Verstappen, on the other hand held the normal line.  The result was predictable:
click for larger
Not only did Lewis Hamilton, who was trailing Verstappen by a few seconds, take the lead but Verstappen suffered enough damage that he had no chance at all of catching the Mercedes driver.  He still finished second, but his profanity-laced radio calls showed the level of agitation he was suffering.  On the podium, he looked angry enough to spit teeth.  In the interview room, he called the Force India driver "a p*ssy", while Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen had to restrain themselves from laughing out loud.  Verstappen would later get into an altercation with False Esteban! that involved shoving and vituperation.  He would be assigned two days of "public service" by the FIA for that.

*ANALYSIS OR SOMETHING LIKE IT:  So who's to blame for this incident that probably cost Verstappen the victory?  False Esteban! was given a 10-second stop/go penalty during the race, very nearly the stiffest the stewards could hand out, just short of an exclusion.  So no matter what the rules say, the Force India driver was at fault.  That being said, the actual sporting regulations are... contradictory... on this matter.

On one hand, a backmarker is 100% allowed to unlap himself from the leader during a race.  Also, in any passing situation the driver in front must leave at least a one-car gap; clearly Verstappen did not do this, closing down on False Esteban! in Turn 2.  By those rules Verstappen was the cause of the collision.  The rules also say that any pass must be accomplished in a safe and controlled manner, and thus False Esteban! should have backed off and waited, probably making the pass down the back straight with DRS assistance.

But there's also the rules of common sense.  Common sense says that False Esteban! was an idiot to challenge the race leader at that time and place... he was in 16th, for heaven's sake.  What was the point?  He was faster, on fresh tires, and could have waited a couple of turns without costing himself anything... and it's not like the Red Bull wouldn't be passing him again once the Force India's tires wet off.  Common sense also says that DH Verstappen shouldn't have put himself into that position.  He had nothing to gain and everything to lose by futzing about with the backmarker, and should have given him plenty of room.  Think of it like False Esteban! was a drunk fratboy staggering around a party throwing punches.  Anybody with a lick of common sense would move back and avoid the punches.  Verstappen just walked into a punch he could have easily avoided.

I'm inclined to declare this a 'racing incident' and let it go.  False Esteban! was an idiot for trying that move when he did and thus costing the Red Bull driver the win.  DH Verstappen was an idiot for not giving the Force India the room it needed, and thus costing himself the win.  I really want to point at Verstappen and say "you're a fool."  The thing is, could he have really expected the Force India driver to be where he was?  A backmarker isn't supposed to push like that... and that's a failing of the "Blue Flag Mentality" that Formula 1 has.  Slower cars are supposed to get out of the way of the leaders after all.  I don't have an answer for any of that. I'm not sure there is an answer without rewriting the rules.  Both drivers legitimately had a right to be where they were when the accident occurred.

The stewards thought Ocon caused an accident, thus was at fault.  I guess that's the answer we have to go with, but it doesn't overly sit well with me.

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November 15, 2018

A Late-Discovered Icon Passes

Roy Clark died today at the age of 85.


Growing up, I was too cool for Roy Clark.  Why, he was on Hee-Haw, that hick show for hick people!  Overall wearin', dirt-farmer soundin' redneck... 

Then one day, something strange happened.  I was walking around my favorite music store, Appletree, and I stumbled over a new album by Mark Knopfler.  Great!  I'm a huge Dire Straits fan, Money for Nothin', Sultans of Swing, y'know right?  But who's this Chet Atkins guy?
Wait.  Wait.  Waitwaitwait.  That's... oh my god, I bought a COUNTRY album???  But... but... this guy Atkins?  He's pretty good!  Maybe there's more to this than I thought...

I'm not a country music fan.  Most "modern country" is really just pop/rock music with a twang in it occasionally.  And most Country & Western music is really still kinda cringeworthy to me.  But I can tell talent when I hear it, and there's a LOT of skilled musicians in countrymusicland.

One of them, maybe one of the best, was Roy Clark.
Sure, he's kinda muggin' for the camera there, but there's no denying that being that good on three distinctly different instruments means somebody's got talent in spades.  
That he can stand next to Glen Campbell on guitar and not come off looking like a stooge is a pretty good indication that he's got chops... and not just on the side of his face.
This has got to be one of my favorite clips from Hee-Haw that I've ever seen.  That's bluesman Clarence Gatemouth Brown he's playing with.  Gatemouth wins, but it's not a runaway.  I'm more impressed that Hee-Haw put him on, actually.  But in my mind, Roy Clark was and always will be a banjo player.
What it really comes down to isn't that I was too cool for Roy Clark... he was too cool for me.  My loss.

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November 14, 2018

I Have Been Lax

Apparently the combination of "being quite sick" and "muscle relaxer" and "total silence for two days" is enough in this day and age to make people who read The Pond somewhat... jumpy.  I'm not sure why.


I'm okay.  I'm back on overtime... apparently my being bad was a one-week aberration.  Or since we're approaching end-of-month, they want to shove as many claims out the door as possible and recognize that I manage to at least do that much.  One of the two.

Thanksgiving is coming, and it'll be a six-day holiday for me.  Yeah, I hit the jackpot on the lottery at work.  Literally.  To prevent EVERYBODY asking for Christmas Eve off (for example), time around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years is blocked out so you literally can't request it.  Then everybody who wants to take some time off has to submit an e-mail to the boss, stating what your Top Three Picks for time off would be.  I actually requested some this year, mostly because Christmas and New Year's Day are on Tuesdays this time around.  I requested Dec 21 and 24, because five-day weekends are good, Nov 26 and 27, because six-day weekends are even better, and  Dec 31 and Jan 2, because hey, why not.

I got TWO of my choices, Thanksgiving and New Years.  I'll take it!  I dunno how many people got two selections, probably not many... I guess being a lil' angel at work pays off.  Which doesn't explain why I got in the greatest sick burn dude on my Big Boss today.  Big Boss?  Yeah, my original boss got promoted to overseer of the entire building, so she's now Big Boss, and her replacement is now my boss.  ANYway.  Big Boss and I have always gotten along well... Cubs fans, y'know?  When they won the World Series (did I mention that the Cubs won the World Series?) she texted me to celebrate because she knew I'd still be awake... we've gotten along well.  She was at the office late tonight, didn't leave until nearly 9pm, or a half-hour before I left.  While she was waiting for the multifunction photocopier (which is next to my cube) to spit out something or other, we were bantering away, blah blah blah Spartan pig Saracen dog blah blah blah, when she said "I used to be a good time once."  It was totally in context with our conversation, really.  Without even stopping to think, I come out with... "That's what all the writing on the bathroom walls said, yeah."

She couldn't stop laughing for at least five minutes.  So I entirely expect to go to work tomorrow, clock in, and be totally fired.  Like, epically, get police to escort him off the premises fired.  I mean, c'mon, the 13th Amendment makes it illegal to own people like that, I wouldn't blame her in the least.

But man, it was sweet.

Speaking of going to work tomorrow, I've got to. So I'm going to bed tonight. Good night!

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